Domain names in Indian languages launched


The National Internet eXchange of India (NIXI) has launched internationalized domain names (IDNs) in Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit, Bengali and Punjabi. The sunrise period for trademark owners started in January 2008 and registration for the general public will open around March 2008.

IDNs are domain names that may contain non-ASCII characters (eg, characters from non-Latin scripts such as Hindi, Arabic or Chinese). India is the world's second fastest-growing economy, with approximately 42 million internet users. It is also the world's most linguistically diverse nation. There are over 400 million Hindi, 200 million Bengali and 60 million Tamil language speakers worldwide.

Following the launch of the new system, regional language speakers will find it easier to remember, understand and type IDNs. Companies and individuals will be able to conduct their business online more easily and reach out to a larger number of customers.

However, the new system could bring challenges for trademark owners. While other countries have only one or two languages, India has 22 official languages in 11 scripts. Although IDNs are being offered only in a few of these languages, trademark owners will find it more difficult to protect their rights. Businesses must also be aware of the fact that Indian languages may have different encodings (eg, Tamil has 28 different encodings).

Moreover, Indian languages are visually and phonetically complex. For example, Urdu can be written in Arabic and in Devnagri alphabet; certain characters (eg, half ra) can be written in different ways. Therefore, an IDN hijacker can register a domain name that contains a Unicode character which appears identical to an ASCII character in a legitimate domain name.

Further, trademark owners will be more vulnerable to cybersquatting and trademark dilution with the advent of IDNs in languages that are spoken in different countries. For example, Urdu is used in India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates; Tamil is spoken in India, Malaysia and Singapore, among other countries.

NIXI is aware of these challenges and plans to block alternate identities of the same IDN. NIXI also promised to create a scientific formula for the visual representation of each character of the IDN. In anticipation of the IDN gold rush, NIXI has dropped the price of '.in' domain names to Rs200 (approximately $5).

Binny Kalra and Avantika Mehta, Anand And Anand Advocates, New Delhi

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